Meet Lisa M. Lyons, Saint Xavier University
What is your role at the Saint Xavier University?
I serve as an Academic Resource Advisor and Rebound Program Coordinator at Saint Xavier University.
How did your college/university support your success in earning your degree(s)?
Although my parents have some college/ trade school under their belt, I really had to figure out the college thing on my own. I was active in high school with sports and activities but did not participate in college preparation programs or mentoring. I don't even recall going to a lot of college fairs in my junior and senior year of high school. I attended Western Illinois University (WIU) and from day one I knew I wanted to be involved and take advantage of the many opportunities afforded to me. I found refuge in the Gwendolyn Brooks Cultural Center, it was a cultural center for African and African-American programs and activities. The Director at that time was Belinda Carr and she took me and so many others under her wing and showed us how to navigate the University and its resources. I branched out and got involved with various areas of the university. I made a huge effort to have a positive working relationship with all my professors. Many of my professors embraced me and wanted to see me succeed. I took on several leadership roles and would land an internship working with the Vice President of Student Affairs who was Dr. Garry Johnson at that time. The internship would fuel my interest in working in higher education.
One program that stood out to me was the Multicultural Orientation. It was held outside the normal orientation and it gave students of color an opportunity to learn about campus-based resources and get to see faculty and staff that looked like them or at least understood their concerns. Students were given a resource guide of go-to persons and places. There was also the Multicultural Graduation banquet where graduates and undergraduates of the graduating class were honored and celebrated. There were additional awards that were given out in various areas of leadership. In case you were wondering, I got the Leadership award as an undergraduate and graduate student. I enjoyed my experience at WIU so much that I stayed for graduate school. Today, I still keep in touch with the faculty, staff, and administrators, which shows they made a huge impact on my life.
What excites you about equity work at your institution?
I feel like equity is starting to finally be addressed. I believe people are starting to realize that there are a number of things that need to be handled. The cultural make-up of the university is changing, and we, too, must be able to change at the same time. I am excited to see what new ideas and programs can be birthed during this process. I believe this will provide an opportunity to get more people involved and excited about working with our students.
In your role, how do you impact equitable outcomes for your students?
It's important to let students know they run the same race. They may come from different racial backgrounds, economic status, educational institutions but the goal is the same. I look at the incoming freshmen class and I have given them all the same tools and support to kick off this semester and be successful. The students all start the race at the same time, at the same place. It does not matter if they were first to be accepted or barely got into the university. Now some students will sprint to the finish line with no problems, other will run into roadblocks, and then there will be those that take a detour. My role is to ensure that everyone is being advised according to their needs, and that I do my job with integrity.